Cheerleading uniforms can be very costly if you get them custom made, and as a new start-up squad might not be able afford regular cheer uniforms in your first season, unless you’re very lucky! With over 12 years of cheering behind us (setting up temporary teams for events and one-off performances) we have compiled a list of suggestion for looking good on a budget.
STOCK SKIRTS & TOPS
The most authentic way of getting a cost-effective cheerleading uniform is to go through a cheerleading supplier. However this does not mean you have to go all out to get a unique uniform designed for you. Most suppliers will have stock skirts and body-liners in multiple colours that will be perfect to give you the right colours and style under a week: all you have to do is check that everything you need is in stock and they have a delivery option that will get to you in time. The picture above shows this solution in a Vintage style, but you can easily find a more all-star solution by opting for a non-pleated skirt and V-neck or round neck bodyliner.
If getting hold of a uniform supplier is not possible in your area or the budget is still too high for you, here are some more alternative options (some more authentic than others!)
SHORTS & VEST TOP
Get a pair of plain jersey shorts or hotpants from a cheap store like Costco or from sport supplier catalogues. Catalogues always have a budget section of plain tops and vests, this can work out cheaper than buying on the high street. Scour the internet for cheap deals, this may be the best option if you are buying in bulk. Make sure the colours match up as close as possible to ensure you look neat. Again, the internet could work out even cheaper, it really pays to do your research.
HIGH NECK LEOTARD & CIRCLE SKIRT
This will cost the very top end of your budget, but it does create a very traditional ‘vintage cheer look’. Trawl internet dance suppliers and wholesale catalogues to find the cheapest high neck leotard and short lycra skirt available. Buy them in a matching dark colour. Try to find items made in jersey if possible, because shiny Lycra can give an ice-dancer look.
MAKE YOUR OWN
One of the best budget options is to make your own. If you can sew then you will soon find yourself wedded to your sewing machine. If you can’t, then learn how! This will prove invaluable throughout your cheer career, as even when you are well established you will want to add bits to jazz up your uniform like pleating, stars etc. Buy a basic sewing machine and have a practise, it’s really not difficult to learn, and once you can it’s a skill for life. Simplicity (sewing patterns) does a cheer pattern (no. 9806) set that you can get online for $5. Keep fabric costs down by going to markets and fabric warehouses for the cloth, and choosing a design that doesn't require much. It's a big task, get everyone to help with the cutting and stitching on basic bits.
Go to the craft store and get some bondaweb/fabribond (ask for an iron on fabric adhesive) and a thick felt like fabric (not actual felt as it falls apart in the wash). Print letters off the computer and cut them out of the fabric, then iron them on. You can also iron on strips of a highlighting colour to your tops.
Find a website such as 'Team Colours' who provide netball kits and items which could be suitable for cheerleading. Go on an internet trawl to find pep dresses and box pleats skirts in all sorts of colour combinations. Benefits include it being cheaper than most cheer suppliers and knowing that you will be able to move in the kit.
Find your own local dressmaker. Shop around for someone who is friendly, open-minded and doesn’t cost too much. Show them pictures of uniforms you like, and see if you can go fabric shopping together to pick out something cheap but striking.
MAKE YOUR OWN BOWS
Cheer bows can be on the pricey side, but with some gross-grain ribbon, a hair band and a zip tie you can make cheer bows for the entire team without costing much! And you can spend time personalising them too with stickers and bling!
For budget pompoms try a dance supplier which provides the large play poms which are very cheap, in many colours. This type is not suitable if you are planning to compete in pom dance as they obscure arm motions and can hurt your fingers. There are lots of different grips and handles which change how you can use the poms, but opt for the fuller option rather than the small, stringy looking ones as those ones really look like party favours! You can beat the system and make your own show poms if you're really struggling. Go really old-school and buy packs of crepe paper or coloured bin bags. Roll up a couple of sheets. Cut 1/2" strips vertically into the sheets from each end, leaving a hands width in the middle. Wrap tape tightly around the uncut section. Scrunch and you have a pom. Add different sheets of paper, or a sheet of holographic cellophane into the mix if you're feeling fancy.
Things to remember
If you're getting skirts from a non sports supplier then you need to make sure you can move in them. Try one on and lunge, do the splits, jump around and do handstands in the changing room. Do not get seduced by the super cheap pleated netball skirts university suppliers offers you. They are not very practical, as every time you jump or tumble they'll flap up and get stuck inside out.
Buy strong colours and avoid pastels or pale colours, as they really bring out the budget in your uniform. This excludes white as it can make uniforms look nice and crisp, but use with care as washing can be a nightmare!
Keep it simple; a striking simple design that is well put together will make a much better impact than a complicated, badly executed one. Remember you can always add more design elements to your uniform as you go, it’s better to start off with something simple that works and is easy to replicate.
If you're buying cheap matching trainers be careful, as if they don't have a sturdy sole they won’t be good for flying. Bend the trainer in half to check, if it will easily fold don't buy it for the whole team. Also press the sole against your hand. If it leaves a scary pattern, think of your bases' hands and walk away.